My Muses: Ruins

My Muses: Ruins

There’s a certain subset of tourism that if you stop to think about its purpose, is fascinating. Millions of people pay lots of money taking time out of their lives to go visit places that are more or less broken. The Parthenon, Machu Picchu, Alcatraz. There are even organized trips to Chernobyl. Whatever the reason, we seem to be interested in looking at things that have lost their intended function.
~ Pete Rosos, Everything’s Ruined

Pete’s absolutely right here. It is fascinating how much effort and expense I’m willing to go through in order to visit some ruined place. Pete’s point is that there are plenty of ruined and broken things in our own backyards to visit and photograph, and he explores that with a great series of B&W photographs, proving broken is beautiful. Ruined is remarkable. Even in his own backyard.

On the other hand, unless you live high in the Andes, Machu Picchu is definitely not in your backyard. It’s certainly not in mine, and I will, someday, expend an enormous amount of energy and dollars to get there.

Here’s what I wrote to Peter, lightly edited:

I get your point. All broken things are, well, broken. All ruined places are, afterall, ruined. They’ve all lost their original utility. That in itself makes them, and your photographs, fascinating, even beautiful and “new”.

What’s also attractive about them — for me — are the stories they tell, stories about how they came to be broken, dispossessed of their utility, how they became forgotten, abandoned, are growing ever more dilapidated.

But what I love about them most is the gestures of grandeur or utility they once were, the stories of their use, of their place in a time and society which no longer exists. I love them for the markers of history they are, here, now — in the present — how they act as transporters to another time, another place.

I take a lot of photographs of ruins, but what I see in them is not so much what rests there, in front of me, but what once was.

The Ruins at Ayuthaya
Once the Capitol of Siam

Taken during travels, 1995

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, Muse, poses a simple enough challenge, “So what’s your muse — what subject do you turn to frequently, more inspired each time?” This post is a response to that challenge. I have posted responses for other muses as well.

Here is a small collection of other photos taken while pursuing my love of ruined, broken things.